Valparaiso earned a split of its Horizon League doubleheader with UIC Saturday afternoon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field by virtue of a 5-2 victory in the nightcap. The Flames claimed a 4-1 win in the opener, snapping Valpo's school-record 13-game winning streak.
“We didn't have to say too much in between games to bounce back from a loss,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “We thought we played well in the first game, and just didn't come through when we needed to with hits. We only made a couple bad pitches, swung the bat well and played good defense, so we didn't have to say much to get the team ready for game two.”
The Crusaders opened the scoring in the nightcap with a single run in the second inning, as senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) led off the inning with a walk and eventually made it to third base with one out. Fellow senior Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington), who was on first, took off for second and got herself caught in a rundown, allowing Boldt to scamper home with the game's first run. Valpo added another run in the third as well when sophomore Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) led off with a single and came around to score on an RBI single up the middle by freshman Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran).
Then Valpo posted a three-spot on the scoreboard in the fourth frame. Boldt and junior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) led off the inning with back-to-back singles, and a walk to Conner loaded the bases with nobody away. Junior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) then drew a four-pitch walk to force home Boldt to give Valpo a 3-0 advantage. Following a pitching change, Brown grounded a ball to the right side, where the only UIC play was to second as Rutkowski crossed the plate. With runners on the corners, the Crusaders successfully pulled off the double steal this time, as Brown took second and Conner stole home to push the lead to 5-0.
Crusader starter Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson) took Valpo home from there, with a little help from her defense. A two-out UIC rally in the fifth consisted of three straight singles, plating one run and giving the Flames runners on the corners with a chance to score more, but Rutkowski nailed Carly DeMarco trying to steal to escape any further damage. A one-out solo homer by Jenna Marsalli cut the Valpo lead to 5-2 in the sixth, but McGee set down the final five Flames in order to close the game.
McGee improved to 11-3 on the year with the complete-game victory, already tied for eighth-most victories in a single season in program history. UIC starter Ashley Hewett took the loss, giving up all five runs in three-plus innings to fall to 6-4. Boldt and Rutkowski, the Crusaders' four and five hitters, combined to go 5-for-5 with three runs scored in the nightcap.
“Sam did her job for us today,” said Stevens. “We needed to get a split out of today, and she came in and threw a good game for us.”
The opener swung UIC's way on just two swings of the bat, as Coryn Schmit launched a pair of home runs. Facing a 1-2 count with two outs in the first, Schmit lifted a three-run homer the opposite way to right field to give the Flames a quick 3-0 lead. Valpo got a run back in its half of the first, as junior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) worked an 0-2 count back to 3-2 before slapping a single through the left side and then came around to score on back-to-back singles by Boldt and Rutkowski.
Schmit closed the scoring with a long ball to left-center field to open the fourth inning as the Flames took a 4-1 lead. Valpo's best chance at cutting into the deficit came in its half of the fourth, as Phalen reached second on a two-base error with one out by UIC second baseman Christie Seddon, but she could only advance as far as third base. The Crusaders' last 10 hitters eventually were retired in order as the Flames snapped Valpo's 13-game win streak.
Junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) suffered the complete-game loss for Valpo, falling to 7-6 despite striking out six Flame hitters. Devin Miller earned the win for UIC (11-14, 2-2 Horizon), going the distance and scattering six hits. Brown was the only Crusader hitter to have a multi-hit game in the opener.
Valparaiso (21-11, 4-1 Horizon) closes out the three-game series with UIC Sunday afternoon with a scheduled 1 p.m. first pitch. All the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats. With possible inclement weather in the forecast, keep refreshing the official Crusader website Sunday for any weather-related updates.